Exeter Higher Cemetery

The centerpiece of the WWI memorial of the Exeter Higher Cemetery in Heavitree is a large cross erected in front of a red-brick chapel. The cross is surrounded by a circle of paved bricks and a swath of green in which several stones representing the fallen men of Devon are embedded. Around the base of the memorial are a few plaques containing the names of the men who died in Exeter as a result of their involvement in the war overseas, as the main plaque details. Engraved in the stone beneath the plaques, encircling the base, is the phrase, "The Glorious Dead Names Liveth For Evermore." One cannot help but allow this haunting phrase to reverbrate in the mind, a reminder of not only the sacrifice of life that war always brings, but also the human tendency to glorify such loss in a feeble attempt to cope with our own incomprehensible actions.

In the WWII memorial, there is a large cross in the middle of an array of gravesmuch like in the WWI section on the other side of the cemetery. Yet, this memorial evokes a slightly different feeling than the first. At the base is a vibrant wreath of poppies, the national symbol of war remembrance, left with a card from "David Furston, Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant on behalf of the county of Devon." There is something closer to immediacy in this war memorial, and the knowledge that the individuals laid to rest there are still frequently remembered as individuals by the living.

Unlike the graves commemorating the First World War, this section of the cemetery is an obvious amalgamation of nationalities: Polish, Australian, Canadian, English, and even German and Italian. On the far end of the memorial is a section devoted to those who fought under the Axis powers; with the exception of one Italain man, this section consists solely of German graves. These graves are different than all of the others in more ways than one. The stones are simple and uniform: an asterisk precedes each birthdate, a cross for each date of death. In spite of this seeming segregation, further in the middle of the memorial there is a mixing of the nationalities, such as one Devonian who lies next to a German man. This memorial may be located in the one of their homelands, but a global solemnity permeates the space, a heavy reminder of the many to remember from this city, England, and beyond.

Text and Photos © Brianna Levesque, 2016


Exeter Higher Cemetery